Amid all the hype and hoopla, it’s easy to forget that the prospects who will be drafted by NFL teams this weekend are still very young.
Not that long ago, 21-year-old Matthew Stafford was the same age as those teenagers he threw passes to in Central Park on Friday morning. If you didn’t know he was about to be taken high in the NFL draft on Saturday, you would have thought Stafford was just a college kid on summer break working as a camp counselor with middle-school kids.
As it stands, though, Stafford is less than 24 hours away from being one of the top picks in the draft and becoming an instant celebrity.
Stafford admitted that he hasn’t yet let everything sink in, but he said there are moments when he realizes how much his life is changing.
“Right as I was leaving Georgia, I had a plaque on my wall and it said 2006 Parade All-American,” Stafford said. “My roommate walks in and goes, ‘Three years ago, you were a freaking All-American in high school and now you’re a NFL draft prospect.’
“It’s been a crazy ride. It’s a lot of fun and it’s happened quick, but I’m ready for the next step.”
That next step will include many chartered flights and plenty of first-class seats, but to get to New York for the draft, Stafford flew coach. The pilots asked for Stafford’s autograph, and he received several other requests from other passengers, but he said the increased attention suits him just fine.
“I don’t mind people coming up to me and asking for autographs,” Stafford said. “It’s not a big hassle to me. … It’s fun, I’m not going to complain about that. It’s an honor.”